Jacob said, "Are you really my son Esau?" He answered, "I am." Then he said, "Bring it to me, that I may eat of my son's game and bless you." So he brought it to him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank. - Genesis 27:24-25
Recently, I led a prayer workshop with our congregation's group for adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities. After singing and body prayer, we closed our morning with a practice of blessing.
The group members and I huddled around, put our hands on the shoulders of one woman, and started to pray. As each of her friends offered words, sounds, or silence, I was deeply moved. Tears were shed, holy laughter broke out, and I felt blessed to stand in the presence of such profound spiritual energy.
I don't know what to make of this passage from Genesis, the story of a stolen blessing. It's hard to cheer for the scoundrel Jacob or to draw an appropriately pious lesson from his lying. What am I supposed to learn from such behavior?
Perhaps only that Isaac's blessing seems a lot more powerful than those I dispense on Sunday mornings.
I have yet to observe congregants jostling for a bigger piece of my benediction. No one has attempted to intercept the waters of baptism as I sprinkled them on another's forehead. The line of people waiting for prayer outside my door is short, and none of them have brought wine.
I wonder how I might come to offer a blessing worth stealing, a prayer potent enough to provoke sibling rivalry. I fear I need a little more practice. But I know just the group to teach me.
God of Isaac, and Esau, and Jacob, give me prayers with power! Send me teachers who know how to truly bless!
Vince Amlin is Associate Minister at the United Church of Gainesville, Gainesville, Florida.